Today, we will travel to the mythical Maiden’s Tower (Turkish: Kız Kulesi), also known as Leander’s Tower, which is one of Istanbul’s iconic and charming landmarks.
It is placed on a small island in the heart of the Bosphorus, off the Asian coast of Üsküdar. It’s a must-see destination in Turkey, fascinating visitors with its timeless charm. Now, it opens its doors as a museum, inviting guests to explore its rich heritage.
This guide to the Maiden’s Tower Museum offers information about the tower in the past and present and what to expect when you visit it. There are also exciting legends about the building and more. So, get ready for a memorable journey into Istanbul‘s history and culture!
The Location of The Tower
The tower was established on a small island off the coast of Salacak, where the Black Sea meets the Marmara. You can reach the Tower by boat from Salacak and Ortaköy.
Historical Facts About the Tower
The Maiden’s Tower has an exciting history. It is said that the Athenian general Alcibiades built the tower on the island around 408 BC to control the ships coming from the Black Sea. The tower, which became the symbol of Üsküdar, is the only artefact left from the Byzantine period there. Its history goes back to 24 BC.
In 1110 Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus constructed a wooden tower with a stone wall to protect it. A steel string stretched from the tower to another tower built on the European coast at the quarter of Mangana in Constantinople.
The island was then connected to the Asian coast through a defence wall. Its remains are still visible underwater. During the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, the tower held a Byzantine garrison ordered by the Venetian Gabriele Trevisano. Subsequently, the tower served as a watchtower by the Ottomans during the reign of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.
The tower faced several disasters, such as earthquakes and fires, but it was restored each time, the last of which was in 1998. Across centuries the structure served many purposes, including being a watchtower and a lighthouse.
The fabulous tower was restored in 2000 and turned into a restaurant. However, as one of the iconic landmarks on İstanbul’s skyline, the Maiden’s Tower requires constant maintenance as it’s situated in the core of the sea. Also, the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry initiated a restoration project titled “The Maiden’s Tower Opens Its Eyes Again” in 2021.
Locals and visitors of Istanbul have continuously watched this elegant structure from multiple locations in the city. After the restoration works completion on May 2023, it was reopened as a museum, and tourists can finally watch the beautiful Istanbul from the Maiden’s Tower.
The Maiden’s Tower Legends
Moreover, the tower’s rich history has been the topic of many legends. So let’s dig deeper:
- The first known legend about the tower, which is related to the name of the building in Turkish, “Kız Kulesi” (Maiden’s Tower), presents the tale of a princess and a king. The story portrays a fortune teller who warned the king that his daughter would die from a snake bite. Accordingly, the king had built the Maiden’s Tower off Salacak to protect his daughter and placed the princess there. However, the princess, who could not escape her destiny, died after being poisoned by a snake hidden in the fruit basket sent to the tower.
- Another legend portrays the love of Hero and Leandros. Leandros swims every night to see Hero- a priestess at the Shrine of Aphrodite in Sestos, on the Dardanelles’ west side. However, one day, when a storm broke, the guided light at the top of the tower went out, and Leandros lost his way and drowned. He could not deal with pain and loss, and Hero also committed suicide by drowning herself in the water. Indeed, this legend, which took place in Çanakkale, was suited for the Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul by European travellers in the 18th. Therefore, the Maiden’s Tower is also known as the Tour de Leandre or Leandre Tower.
- The last known legend is about the love of the two towers, Galata Tower and Maiden’s Tower and their incapacity to meet because of the Bosporus in between. The Galata Tower wrote letters and poems to the Maiden’s Tower. One day, Hezârfen Ahmet Çelebi decided to fly from Galata Tower to Üsküdar with eagle wings. Taking what he considered an opportunity, Galata Tower insisted that Çelebi took the tower’s letters with him as he flew over the Bosphorus. Although Ahmed Çelebi took the notes and jumped, the strong wind scattered the letters all over the Bosphorus; the waves carried the letters over to the Maiden’s Tower. During that moment, the Maiden realised how much Galata Tower loved her. When they realised that their love was mutual, their beauty thrived. This legendary love story is passed down from generation to generation.
Things to do at Maiden’s Tower Museum
The tower is a famous historical symbol of Istanbul. It Is one of the pictured landmarks worldwide and one of Turkey‘s Instagrammable attractions. Here is a list of some activities that you can enjoy in the museum.
A Ferry Tour to the Maiden’s Tower Museum
Set in the heart of the famous Bosphorus Strait, you can explore the magic of this iconic structure by taking a ferry ride. Enjoy the tower up close and experience an extraordinary experience over a peaceful journey through many sights that are very close to the tower.
You will enjoy the scenery of the charming sea and the mythical tower. Remember to take many selfies to always remember this visual feast.
Experience the Gorgeous View
If you do not have a fear of heights, you shouldn’t miss this ride. The incredible scene of a 360-degree panoramic view of Istanbul is waiting for you to explore. The view from the tower is undoubtedly stunning, revealing a whole new part of the city’s beauty.
Gaze at the sprawling skyline, where modern skyscrapers coexist harmoniously with historical landmarks as the magnificent Bosphorus strait winds its way through the city’s heart. It constitutes a marvellous mixture that will surely leave you stunned.
This high vantage point gives you a reshuffle appreciation of the rich history of Istanbul and its vibrant atmosphere. This iconic tower is an absolute must-visit destination for photographers seeking to capture the best shots of Istanbul. If you are looking for an unforgotten charming natural view, make sure to visit the tower at sunset for an unbelievable scene!
Watch the Laser Show
Since its grand reopening in May 2023, the Maiden’s Tower has attracted visitors. It offers entertainment, breathtaking light and a laser show every evening, extending from the Asian coast of Salacak at appointed times.
This fascinating sight artfully portrays the legendary love story between the Maiden Tower and the Galata Tower. Get ready to be awed as the tale comes alive through a dazzling symphony of colours and patterns, creating an unforgettable visual celebration for every person who witnesses it.
Explore the Tower’s District; Üsküdar
The district where the tower is can also give you an extraordinary experience! It is one of the most vital regions; besides the Maiden’s Tower, there are many other attractions to explore. With its deep-rooted history and many historical monuments and buildings which can be visited in the region, you’ll have a fun-filled time.
It is one of the famous piers that witnessed the transition to the European side. There, you will be surrounded by a plethora of destinations waiting for you to explore, including the 16th-century mosques, the enormous historical fount in the centre of the court, the miniature Şemsi Pasha Mosque and Madrasa on the beach, Mihrimah Mosque, the historical Karacaahmet Cemetery, the famous Fethi Pasha Grove and more. Also, the Camlica hills, with their various sizes, offer a fantastic sight to visitors.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Tower
Let’s answer any questions you might still have about the tower!
What is the fee for visiting the tower?
You can enjoy visiting the tower free of charge until the end of May, including free transportation. As of 1 June, a museum card or ticket will be mandatory for visitors. You can also access the tower’s official website for detailed information. However, according to the latest announced prices, the entrance fee for the museum is 30 Turkish Liras per person.
Is the tower currently available to visit?
The tower was under restoration and was reopened to visitors in May 2023.
How to get to the Maiden’s Tower?
You can reach the tower by boat from Üsküdar Salacak and Kabataş. Boats generally leave throughout the day, taking almost 10-15 minutes.
What are the Tower’s working Hours?
The Maiden’s Tower Museum opens daily from 09:00 to 20:00.
Is the Istanbul Museum Card valid for entering the tower?
Istanbul Museum Card is also valid for the Maiden’s Tower Museum.
Here is where our journey ends. So, what are you waiting for? Come on, pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable trip to Maiden’s Tower!